Irish team-mates Stephen Kelly and (right) Shay Given. INPHO/Donall Farmer

Opinion: Kelly, Meyler and Brady made the right calls by moving on

The Irish trio all showed courage to leave better positioned clubs in order to find first-team football.

STEPHEN KELLY IS this morning saying his last goodbyes at Fulham, having brought a three-and-a-half year spell with the club to an end.

After spending yesterday being put through his paces by Reading’s medical staff, the Dubliner makes the short trip down from southwest London to Berkshire where a Premier League relegation scrap awaits.

Kelly will be the first to admit that it’s been an eventful year – for all the wrong reasons. With Damien Duff playing on the same flank, the defender was an ever-present in Fulham’s team last season and made the right-back slot his own under then new manager Martin Jol.

On the international front too, he seemed to be establishing himself as an important member of Giovanni Trapattoni’s squad. Called upon for crucial qualifiers with Russia and Armenia as well as the first leg play-off win over Estonia, Kelly went into 2012 with the understandable belief that he would play some part in Ireland’s first major tournament appearance in 10 years.

It all began to unravel uncontrollably however, and Kelly was left out with discontent bunch Darron Gibson, Stephen Hunt and Shane Long as the Boys in Green succumbed to three defeats on the bounce. Kelly bit his tongue and moved on.

Back at Fulham, when Martin Jol brought in German defender Sascha Riether on a loan deal from Koln in July it wasn’t immediately clear that Kelly’s time was up. Six months on, Riether’s name is one of the first on the team sheet while Kelly has been restricted to two Premier League appearances.

Kelly, who turns 30 on this next birthday, is not the sort of character who would happily stick around to pick up his sizable wage package without earning it, however. While attempting to break into the Spurs team, Kelly enjoyed several loan spells and after growing tired of playing second fiddle to Stephen Carr and then Paul Staleri, insisted on dropping down a league to sign for Birmingham.

Known for being extremely polite and one of the genuine ‘nice guys’ in football, he also showed he’s not afraid to speak his mind when necessary last October.

Increasingly frustrated at being overlooked for the national team, Kelly was involved in a training ground argument with assistant boss Marco Tardelli before the World Cup qualifier with the Faroe Islands, where it is reported that he had to be persuaded to board the plane to Vagar.

Reading are six points off safety in 19th at the moment, may not be in the top tier beyond May but it’s as good a place as any to kick-start your career and they could do with characters like Kelly to help drag them out of the drop zone.

The league’s best right-back he may not be but Kelly has shown an exemplary attitude and a enormous hunger to play throughout his career and with this latest move.

Meyler and Brady joined Hull on permanent deals last week. Credit: Press Association

Just last week, we saw David Meyler and Robbie Brady make permanent switches to promotion hopefuls Hull City. Again, some have looked upon the pair taking a step down to the second tier in a negative light. What hope have we got in qualifying for World Cups if two of our most promising young players are accepting they can’t cut it at their respective clubs, might be the thinking.

What it shows, in fact, is courage. As Darron Gibson found out the hard way, hanging onto the comfort zone of reserve team football and the odd cup appearance will only stagnate a player’s development at an age when he should be getting regular exposure at senior level.

It’s an incredible feat in itself that Meyler regained full fitness after suffering a nightmare double cruciate ligament injury, and although he has been robbed of a couple of seasons, the 23-year-old still has time on his side to  become the heart of Ireland’s midfield with the likes of Gibson and James McCarthy.

Steve Bruce originally gave the Cork native his chance at Sunderland and Meyler has already been repaying his manager’s faith with a couple of goals for the Tigers in recent weeks.

Brady, meanwhile, is the most exciting player the country has produced since Robbie Keane burst onto the scene 15 years ago. He will be disappointed to have departed from Manchester United without making the breakthrough but it is nothing to be ashamed of and many have gone on to carve out distinguished careers after coming up through the ranks before being told they could leave by Alex Ferguson.

With Stephen Quinn and Paul McShane also on the books at Hull, Trap could do worse than to take a game in at the KC Stadium before next month’s friendly with Poland.

Elsewhere, you would hope to see a couple more Irish players putting the football first by finding new clubs this month. Shane Long and James McCarthy have been the subjects of speculation but both would be smart to stay where they are until the summer at least, in my opinion.

Richard Dunne’s future is likely to remain in limbo until his injury problems are sorted. The defender has not played since Euro 2012  but Villa boss Paul Lambert says he could be back training next week. After LA Galaxy were named as a possible destination recently, Dunne has also been lumped in with a couple of dozen others as a target of QPR.

Sure, Lambert wants to succeed with his new youthful side but the sheer volume of goals they’ve been shipping lately suggests holding onto their most experienced centre-half would help.

Team-mate Shay Given, behind Brad Guzan at Villa, has been quoted as saying the only reason he’s still there is because of their cup runs this season. After conceding to fellow Donegal man Carl McHugh of League Two Bradford City this week, the former Ireland number one might have a change of heart. And so he should as there’s still life left in the old dog and sitting on the sidelines is not the way to spend your final years.

Down at Wolves, meanwhile, Stephen Hunts’ days were numbered under Stale Solbakken but it seems the arrival of Dean Saunders has given him a lifeline.

Hunt is a player I’m looking forward to working with,” the new boss said. “He’s got Premiership quality and a good attitude – he gives you everything.”

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